“And you admire that.”
“Certainly—hearts are a great bore.”
“You were always a cynic, Hector; that is perhaps what makes you so attractive.”
“Am I attractive?”
“I can’t judge,” said Mrs. Ellerwood, nettled for a moment. “I have known you too long, but I hear other women saying so.”
“That is comforting, at all events,” said Lord Bracondale. “I always have adored women.”
“No, you never have, that is just it. You have let them adore you, and utterly spoil you; so now sometimes, Hector, you are insupportable.”
“You just said I was attractive.”
“I shall not argue further with you,” said Mrs. Ellerwood, pettishly.
“And I think we ought to be saying good-night, Hector,” interrupted the silent Jack. “We are making an early start for Fontainebleau to-morrow, and Monica likes any amount of sleep.”
This did not suit Mrs. Ellerwood at all; but if Jack spoke seldom he spoke to some purpose when he did, and she knew there was no use arguing.
So with a heart full of ungratified curiosity, she at last allowed herself to be packed into Hector’s automobile and driven away.
“Of course he’ll go and join that other party now, Jack! What did you make me come away for, you tiresome thing!” she said to her husband.
“He has done me many a turn in the past,” said Jack, laconically.
“Then you think—?”
But Jack refused to think.
Theodora was sitting rather on the outskirts of the party in the bosquet, her two devoted admirers still on either side of her. All the chairs were arranged informally, and hers was against the opening, so that it proved easy for Lord Bracondale to come up behind her unperceived.
She believed he had gone. She could not see distinctly from where she was, but she had thought she saw the automobile whizzing by. She recognized Mrs. Ellerwood’s hat. An unconscious feeling of blankness came over her. She grew more silent.
A lady beyond the Prince spoke to him, and at that moment Mr. Hoggenwater rose to put down her coffee-cup, and in this second of loneliness a deep voice said in her ear:
“I could not go—I wanted to say good-night to you!”
Then Theodora experienced a new emotion; she could not have told herself what it was, but suddenly a gladness spread through her spirit; the moon looked more softly bright, and her sweet eyes dilated and glowed, while that voice, gentle as a dove’s, trembled a little as she said:
“Lord Bracondale! Oh, you startled me!”
He drew a chair and sat down behind her.
“How shall we get rid of your Hogginheimer millionaire?” he whispered. “I feel as if I wanted to kill every one who speaks to you to-night.”
The half light, the moon, Paris, and the spring-time! Theodora spent the next hour in a dream—a dream of bliss.